HIV/AIDS Researcher Says Poverty, Bisexuality, Domestic Abuse, Drug Use Contributing Factors to Southern HIV/AIDS Epidemic
Several factors -- including poverty, bisexuality, domestic abuse and drug use -- contribute to the increased incidence of HIV/AIDS among blacks in rural Southern states, according to a University of Alabama researcher, the Associated Press reports. Bronwen Lichtenstein, a professor in the Department of Women's Studies and the Institute for Rural Health Research, said that poverty is the "driving force" behind the AIDS epidemic in the South, but she said that there are other contributing factors. According to Lichtenstein, some men in relationships with women have unprotected sex with men for pleasure, money or drugs, increasing the risk of HIV infection for all parties. Lichtenstein said that some men who have sex with men then transmit HIV to their female partners. "Some men know they have [HIV]; some don't. But the women [in the relationships] feel very victimized," she said. Some HIV/AIDS experts disagree with Lichtenstein's theories, the Associated Press reports. Tony Morris, executive director of the Birmingham, Ala.-based group AIDS in Minorities, said, "I think 100% of [HIV among blacks in the South] is linked to drug use or the drug trade." But Karen Musgrove, executive director of Birmingham AIDS Outreach, said Lichtenstein's research "goes right in line with what we're seeing." Dr. Gene Copello, co-chair of the Southern AIDS Coalition and executive director of Florida AIDS Action, said that Lichtenstein's research illustrates how the "social stigma of AIDS" has made it difficult for health workers in small towns in the South "to peel away layers of secrecy and get to the root cause of the disease's spread," the Associated Press reports. He said, "The South hasn't received enough attention, and we have the largest number of new AIDS cases in the country. It's basically exploding here" (Reeves, Associated Press, 11/9).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.